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NFC Training Camp Update: Is Antonio Gibson the New Christian McCaffrey?

This NFL season is different.  Instead of four preseason games for every team, most will only play three.  With that said, as training camp rages on, the second game for teams this weekend are the big ones.  Typically the third game is the last look at each squad’s starters before the regular season.  Now, with one less opportunity to play, the second game is likely where we will see the fantasy football players we care about take the field one last time before September.  Before this weekend’s kickoffs, check out all of the injury updates, position battles, and more out of NFC training camps this past week.

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NFC Training Camps Ready for Preseason Game Two

Arizona Cardinals

Louis Riddick, of ESPN, claims A.J. Green is looking like a “2015 version” of himself at Cardinals’ training camp.  Green is coming off of an underwhelming 2020 season in which he caught just 47 of his 104 targets.  If Green is to have an impact on this fantasy football season, he needs to stay healthy.

Green is essentially free in drafts right now with an ADP of WR62.  If you’re feeling lucky, go ahead and use a late-round pick on the veteran.  It’s a good bet that his best games will be early in the season.

I’d still rather target his younger teammate, rookie, Rondale Moore, WR68, with the chance to be Arizona’s second most productive pass catcher behind DeAndre Hopkins.  Moore was targeting on 36% of his routes run in the team’s first preseason game.  Head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, clearly wants him involved.

Chase Edmonds is listed as the starting running back on the Cardinals’ first unofficial depth chart.  His RB27 ADP is a bit too pricey for my liking.  Former running back, Kenyan Drake, leaves behind 239 carries from last season.  James Conner is expected to fill his shoes this season and he’s generally going three to four rounds later than Edmonds.

It’s worth noting that quarterback, Kyler Murray, rushed 36 more times than Edmonds last season.  I’d rather draft a running back, like Darrell Henderson or Kareem Hunt, who are expected to have more significant roles in their respective offenses.  They have similar ADPs to Edmonds.

Atlanta Falcons

Calvin Ridley is a stud.  This shouldn’t be news.  In joint training camp practices this week with the Miami Dolphins, Ridley spent his time putting on a clinic against their defensive backs.

However, there are some who question if he can succeed without Julio Jones demanding most of the attention from opposing defenses.  Calvin Ridley is not only is elite in his own right but even better without Julio on the field.

On average, Ridley scores just over three more fantasy points per game without Julio on the field than with him.  He also sees approximately three more targets and averages just over 30 more yards per game.  Sure, Kyle Pitts is there and going to get him, but Ridley is the pass catcher you want in this offense.

There shouldn’t be any doubts about selecting Ridley as a top wide receiver in fantasy football this season.

Carolina Panthers

Robby Anderson is out of training camp for an undetermined amount of time as he recovers from a hamstring injury.  These soft tissue strains and pain are nightmares for players that rely on speed to be effective.  Anderson is ranked much higher ahead of the 2021 season than he was last year, but if this injury lingers, he currently carries a risk with his WR34 ADP.

Meanwhile, rookie wide receiver, Terrace Marshall, Jr., is gaining momentum in his first NFL training camp as a rookie with the potential to produce this season.  The lesser-known LSU receiver, who played alongside Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, is now reunited with his college offensive coordinator, Joe Brady.  With that in mind, Marshall, Jr. could have an impact in fantasy football this season.  Keep him in mind as a dart-throw later in your drafts or as an early waiver wire grab.

Christian McCaffrey obviously did not play in the Panthers’ first preseason game.  In his place, rookie Chubba Hubbard got the start.  He is looking like the obvious handcuff to Run CMC this season.  Hubbard, even if you draft McCaffrey, should remain undrafted.  He does not have the firepower that other handcuffs have if needed to start but would warrant a waiver add if McCaffrey were to go down at any point in 2021.

Chicago Bears

Justin Fields will start the majority of the Chicago Bears’ games this season.  It’s only a matter of time.  In his first preseason action, Fields looked comfortable and would have racked up 18.98 fantasy points in his limited play.  His ability to run, and throw on the run, takes this offense to another level that Andy Dalton, nor Nick Foles, are able to do.

Fields is dealing with a groin injury, but it’s not expected to be serious as he participated in light practice yesterday.  We’re still in limbo with his current QB18 ADP.  He is not the official Week 1 starter, but could be under center before September ends.  When he is, I’m prepared to treat him as a top-10 option each week.

Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback, Dak Prescott, is throwing again.  He isn’t going to play in the Cowboys’ second preseason game nor their third.  That said, we will have to live or die by training camp practice updates as he works his way back onto the field.

Prescott is a top-five quarterback in fantasy football and this offense has potential to be similarly ranked in 2021.  With Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper, Ceedee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz around him, I’m still behind Dak to succeed.  I don’t know if I would use a fourth-round pick on him, though, unless my league’s rules favored quarterbacks, specifically extra points for touchdowns or passing yards.

We can debate whether or not to select Ceedee Lamb or Amari Cooper as the first Cowboys pass catcher all day long.  Michael Gallup, however, carries value of his own with his WR45 ADP.  Gallup is working more in the slot during this training camp.  He ran seven of his 11 routes last weekend out of the slot.  Any opportunity for Gallup to get on the field is good for fantasy football purposes.

Detroit Lions

D’Andre Swift is back at training camp practice after missing time with a groin injury.  He doesn’t have a snap-count at practice and is back to his usual heavy workload.  There shouldn’t be any downgrading to his value as a result of his recent injury.

Quarterback, Jared Goff, is struggling.  He didn’t show much in the team’s first preseason game.  Furthermore, he threw multiple interceptions in yesterday’s practice, keeping most of his positive gains to shorter routes.  Goff doesn’t have the fire power of weapons in Detroit that he once had in Los Angeles.  He’s not even a consideration in two quarterback leagues at this point.

Green Bay Packers

Backup quarterback, Jordan Love, is out with a right shoulder injury and is unlikely to play in the team’s second preseason game versus the New York Jets.  Without Aaron Rodgers or Love under center, the Packers offense will get a mulligan for any poor performances this weekend.

Love did, however, throw for 122 yards and score in the first game.  If Rodgers were to miss time for any reason, Love’s showing last weekend was a glimmer of hope that this offense wouldn’t completely crumble for fantasy football purposes.

Wide receiver, Davante Adams, is gushing with compliments for the 2021 Packers’ pass-catching group so far in training camp.  This is one of the better rosters in years with Adams, Randall Cobb, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, and rookie, Amari Rodgers.  Adams could benefit from the talent around him this season and see less double coverage from defenses.  As if you needed another reason to rank him as the WR1.

Los Angeles Rams

As expected, none of the fantasy football players we’re drafting on the Rams played in the first preseason game.  That includes running back, Darrell Henderson, whose role as the RB1 on this team is becoming clearer and clearer.

If Henderson isn’t cutting it or goes down with an injury, I would assume the Rams would utilize a running back by committee of sorts.  Although, head coach, Sean McVay, is alluding to the idea that second-year back, Xavier Jones, could have a change of pace role no matter what.

The most success that the Rams have had under McVay, the team utilized a clear-cut workhorse running back in Todd Gurley.  I’m not saying that Darrell Henderson is Todd Gurley.  However, if he can see the same opportunity Gurley had when he was with the team, he could be one of the biggest steals of any fantasy football draft in the sixth or seventh round.

Minnesota Vikings

Justin Jefferson is practicing again, but on a limited basis.  After a ridiculous rookie campaign, the Vikings aren’t rushing their young star back onto the field.  All of the tests on his recently injured shoulder returned clean and he will be ready for Week 1 without any concern.  He is a set and forget, trustworthy star at receiver and should be treated as such in any upcoming drafts.

Meanwhile, in Jefferson’s absence, Adam Thielen and Irv Smith, Jr. continue to see heavy reps in the passing attack.  Believe it or not, Cousins was QB11 for the 2020 season.  While fantasy football managers won’t be leaning much on Cousins in their lineups, he gets the job done when it comes to getting the ball to the pass catchers we care about in the Vikings’ offense.

Dede Westbrook is continuing to make strides as he makes a comeback from an ACL tear last season.  He shouldn’t be drafted in fantasy football, but if he makes the team, he could develop into a waiver wire pickup at some point this season.  As the probable third receiver on the roster, Westbrook looks like he may also be the team’s punt returner adding more value to his name.

New Orleans Saints

The quarterback battle in New Orleans is dead even.  Although, the last we saw between Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston was the latter driving the offense down the field quickly for a first half score in their first preseason game.  Both quarterbacks have an interception to their name and each took a sack.  The second game will hopefully paint a clearer picture here.

Any success Taysom Hill had was throwing to wide receiver, Marquez Callaway.  Callaway is expected to be the team’s top pass catcher in Michael Thomas’ absence.  He’s stood out in training camp and logged three receptions for 61 yards in last weekend’s game.

Both Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith are going borderline undrafted.  If I had the choice, I’d roll the dice on Callaway as a bench stash to start the season.

Latavius Murray is supposedly in jeopardy of losing his job.  With free-agent signee, Devonta Freeman, and UDFA rookie, Tony Jones Jr., both finding success in training camp, 31-year old Murray could be on the outs.  I’ve consistently targeted Murray in my weekly mock drafts as a top handcuff.

He’s been effective for the Saints in the past few seasons.  His release would be a major statement and completely tank any fantasy value he’s had up to this point.  If that were the case, I would not bother handcuffing Alvin Kamara in drafts with Jones Jr. or Freeman.

New York Giants

The Giants cut ties with running back, Alfred Morris earlier this week.  I had previously mentioned if Morris made the roster, it would indicate Saquon Barkley’s rehab from his 2020 season-ending knee injury was not progressing well enough.  Now, it’s either Devontae Booker or Corey Clement getting the carries behind Saquon.

Even with this news, Saquon is still doing mostly individual work as he has been throughout training camp.  He isn’t participating in contact drills just yet.  He also won’t play versus the Cleveland Browns this weekend.

With that said, I would tread lightly with expectations for Saquon in Week 1.  He’s still a first-round running back based on talent alone and the Morris release is a great sign.  However, his opportunity and effectiveness may be less than normal out of the gate.

Kenny Golladay is catching passes from Daniel Jones in training camp practices, but off to the side and not running routes.  He, too, will not play versus the Browns.  His ADP is slowly declining, as expected, since his hamstring injury.  Golladay, when healthy, is a top receiver, but cannot be trusted as such for the upcoming fantasy football season.

Where is rookie receiver, Kadarius Toney?  Offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, when asked about Toney simply stated, “It is what it is.”  This is the same player that Jaguars coach, Urban Meyer, was “heartbroken” about missing out on in this year’s draft.  He’s apparently dealing with multiple undisclosed injuries.  Either way, Toney is irrelevant for the 2021 fantasy season at this time.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are down two tight ends this week.  Training camp standout, Tyree Jackson, is out eight to ten weeks with a back fracture while Jason Croom was carted off in last night’s game with an apparent knee injury.  With depth at the position waning, Zach Ertz looks like he is going to stick around in 2021 after an offseason full of trade rumors.

In Weeks 14 to 16 last season, where Jalen Hurts started at quarterback, and both tight ends, Dallas Goedert and Ertz played, the two each saw 17 targets in that three-game span.  Ertz staying in Philly helps Hurts, but could limit Goederts’ potential as a top-10 tight end.  It’s hard to justify using a sixth to eighth-round pick on Goedert right now.

Jalen Reagor’s underwhelming rookie season is in the rearview mirror after a one-handed grab from training camp practice with the New England Patriots went viral this week.  Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, but Reagor is reportedly looking much better this year in training camp so far.

Wide receivers often make their biggest leap in progress from their first to their second year in the league.  Reagor is likely going to be a waiver wire pickup if anything, this fantasy football season.

Rookie wide receiver, DeVonta Smith is back in action and even caught his first few in-game passes during last night’s preseason game.  It was Joe Flacco throwing the ball his way, however, after Jalen Hurts was downgraded to out due to a stomach infection just before game time.  He was sent to the hospital but isn’t expected to miss more than a few days of practice.

Smith didn’t get the big, downfield play maybe some were hoping to see.  He did, however, show fantastic separation from defenders on most of his routes.  The sprained knee that kept him out for some time from his first training camp is no longer much of a concern.

San Francisco 49ers

Trey Lance’s first completion in the NFL was an 80-yard touchdown pass.  Sure, it was a preseason game, but it’s still exciting.  After that play, however, Lance was just three for 13 for 48 yards.  Four of those incompletions were drops by his receivers.  Lance still continues to show promise, but the positional battle continues with Jimmy Garropolo.

At running back, with veteran, Raheem Mostert sitting out, rookie Trey Sermon got the start.  He was in the backfield for all three third-down plays Garropolo was under center for.  Sermon is going one to two rounds after Mostert in most drafts.  Given that Mostert is known to struggle staying healthy, waiting to select Sermon is worthwhile.

The 49ers had the second-most rushes per game two seasons ago when they went to the Super Bowl.  If Sermon can get going with that in mind, he’s a great value at RB34.

On the subject of running backs, Elijah Mitchell is out for an extended period of time with an adductor strain.  This opens the door for Wayne Gallman to continue to work in as the team’s third option at running back.

Seattle Seahawks

Backup running back, Rashaad Penny, is back on the training camp field after missing a short amount of time with an injury.  Penny is expected to play in this weekend’s game versus the Denver Broncos.  With Chris Carson the clear-cut starter, Saturday will be a good look at where Penny’s at and how good of a handcuff he is to Carson this season.

Carson is unlikely to play in either of the team’s final two preseason games.  Having just signed a two-year extension, Carson will save any and all work for when it counts in the regular season.  Don’t let his lack of play in August deter you from scooping him up in the early rounds of fantasy drafts.  He’s a trustworthy starting running back to roster especially if you target two wide receivers with your first two picks.

Rookie wide receiver, Dwayne Eskridge is back on the practice field, as well.  Although, as a rookie, he will be slower to get in on the action with the rest of the team.  Depth at receiver is always a good thing, but Eskridge isn’t a threat to the value of DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett in 2021.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s that time of the year where head coach, Bruce Arians, hypes up one of his running backs to have a large role for the upcoming season.  This week, Arians is claiming Giovanni Bernard is that back.  Bernard’s career is known to center around his ability as a pass-catcher.

Tom Brady is known to utilize a pass-catching running back, specifically James White during his time in New England.  In five non-rookie seasons playing with Tom Brady, White averaged 63 receptions per year.  If Gio sees that sort of volume as a pass-catcher alone, he will warrant weekly flex consideration.  For those that play in best ball formats, he is a great late-round target.

Antonio Brown is in hot water again after starting a fight at joint training camp practice with the Tennessee Titans.  Brown allegedly removed the helmet from Titan cornerback, Chris Jackson, and punched him in the face.  This hopefully won’t effect AB’s status regarding a suspension.  If it does, his ADP will likely fall depending on time missed.

Washington Football Team

Wide receiver, Curtis Samuel is still not practicing.  He is working his way back from a groin injury that’s been bothersome since Spring OTAs.  If Samuel can’t get on the field before Week 1, it’s going to be harder and harder to trust him as a starter in fantasy football earlier on.  Samuel’s absence continues to open the door for Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas as top targets in this offense.

Twitter is finally cooling down after backup quarterback, Kyle Allen, made the claim that the team plans to use Antonio Gibson in a similar way to how the Panthers use Christian McCaffrey.  Head coach, Ron Rivera, compared Gibson to McCaffrey last season, as well.

I highly doubt Gibson will see the 300+ touches that McCaffrey has tallied twice in his own career.  The Washington offense is well equipped with high-quality pass catchers and even J.D. McKissic as a passing down option out of the backfield.  However, if Gibson can log closer to 280 touches, there’s no reason he shouldn’t have a positive return on his second-round pick investment this fantasy football season.

For more Rankings and Analysis please check out our full 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

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